Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Awkwafina, Mindy Kaling, and Helene Bonham Carter, Ocean’s 8 is an above average romp that can be easily watched during a girl’s night out. Filled with exquisite architecture, art, jewellery and costumes, and set at the Met Gala, the film features glitz, glamour and celebrity cameos galore including Anna Wintour, Serena Williams and Katie Holmes. It features more than one inside joke to Rihanna hosting the Met Gala as well as callbacks to the original Oceans franchise.
The film starts with Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) paroled after serving over five years in jail over fraud. She uses her time incarcerated to plan a heist to steal a $150 million necklace at the Met Gala, and recruits a team of all-female professional crooks to pull the heist off. It is inevitable that the film will be compared to its predecessors, so how does it hold up? Well it’s not as smooth as the original trilogy but has enough cast chemistry to keep the audience interested. Where the film draws your eye to the enjoyable acting of the cast and the thrill of the heist, it also struggles with pacing issues, feeling slow and sluggish at the start. In addition, some scenes feel stilted and out of place, and Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling are relegated to comic relief in moments that seem inopportune and squashed in the plot.
It is great to see people of colour in the film, both in principal and supporting roles. Ocean’s 8 has avoided the misogynistic flashback that Ghostbusters faced for reasons unknown but a women led film, albeit one that continues to be overwhelmingly white, continues to be a breath of fresh air. Hopefully one day filmmakers will remember to cast women of colour in more fleshed out roles that don’t resort to stereotypes. Amita’s (Mindy Kaling) argument with her mother on the subject of an arranged marriage is so eyeroll emoji. I look forward to a day when casting a South Asian woman in a principal role doesn’t mean that there needs to be a subplot on overbearing family members and the pressure to get married. I also wish South Asian mothers weren’t depicted as marriage-obsessed demons.
Thankfully, the film doesn’t try to prove itself as feminist or whatever in a pretentious liberal way. That, more than anything else, would have made me hate it. There is also no real romantic subplot, which once more is a welcome change to the Hollywood machine. Nevertheless, some dialogues remain quietly progressive such as Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) seeking positive companionship with women over a life of loneliness, and the way that Debbie Ocean calls out the way women are underestimated and invisible in the eyes of the world, and uses it to her advantage.
Overall, the film features a fairly simple plot with some predictable and straightforward twists. Rihanna is a knockout as the hacker Nine Ball, and the characters remain interesting individually even though their relationship with one another isn’t particularly developed. What the film lacks in action and any real complication for our main characters, it makes up for in how delightfully fun it is. It is aware of its setting in the high fashion world, and gleefully exploits Anne Hathaway’s “Bambi eyes” and Helena Bonham carter’s penchant for the weird and wacky.
Ocean’s 8 is a fun one-time watch with friends with a durable formula that is adapted in an entertaining way. Watch out for all the cameos and don’t try to expect the magic of the originals, or you’ll end up disappointed.
Ishita Mathur | @ishitamathur7